Pro-India parties to take power in Indian Kashmir
By ASHOK SHARMA,Associated Press Writer AP - 1 hour 52 minutes ago
NEW DELHI - A pro-India coalition will head the Kashmir state government, ending nearly six months of federal administration that saw deadly protests against New Delhi's rule, leaving more than 50 people dead.
No single party managed to win a majority in the election, which took place in several phases and ended last week, and so the major parties scrambled to form an alliance to take power.
The National Conference, which with 28 seats won more than any other party, and the Congress party, which won 17, struck an agreement Tuesday to form a new coalition, giving them a majority in the state parliament, officials said.
At 38, National Conference chief Omer Farooq will be the youngest chief minister Indian-ruled Kashmir has ever seen. Farooq's father and grandfather were also top officials in the state, and the family has long-standing ties to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, heir to another political dynasty.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, where most people favor either independence or a merger with Pakistan. Farooq Abdullah _ a senior National Conference leader and Omer Farooq's father _ vowed Tuesday to work with separatists to settle the decades-old Kashmir dispute.
"The separatists should not feel alienated and should be brought into the mainstream to talk," said Abdullah.
Mirwaiz Omer Farooq, a key separatist leader, dismissed the new coalition as a shuffle of the same faces and ideologies.
"What is to be seen is whether this government will muster courage and represent the aspirations of people here," he said. "What we need is a policy change in Kashmir, not an administrative change."
He and other separatist leaders had urged residents to boycott the vote, saying the election would only strengthen India's hold on the Himalayan region. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Kashmir is divided between the longtime rivals and they both claim it in its entirety.
But instead, voting was largely peaceful, with a higher-than-expected turnout of more than 60 percent, though there were scattered anti-India protests throughout.
The Congress party, which leads the governing coalition in power in New Delhi, ruled Jammu-Kashmir state in an alliance with another party, the People's Democratic Party, until August when the chief minister resigned following weeks of protests that left more than 50 people dead.
The federal government stepped in to fill the vacuum and announced plans to hold the phased election.
Separatist groups have been fighting since 1989 to end Indian rule. The uprising and a subsequent Indian crackdown have killed about 68,000 people, most of them civilians.
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